Former Scots science chief says time to look again at GM crops

Professor Anne Glover.
Professor Anne Glover.
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Scotland’s former chief scientific officer has cast fresh doubt on the government’s controversial GM ban claiming it is time to look at the benefits of the technology.

Professor Anne Glover has backed comments by Princess Anne that GM crops have many benefits and she would be happy to grow them in her farm.

The Scottish Government imposed a ban on GM technology without seeking any scientific advice, with ministers claiming they wanted to protect the reputation of Scotland’s food and drink sector.

The Princess Royal made a surprise intervention in the GM debate in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme, insisting she saw no problem with modifying crops if it improved their ability to grow.

Prof Glover said yesterday that the Princess Royal’s view mirrors that of “every global learned academy which has looked at the safety of the technology” for producing new varieties of crop.

“Every single one of them has concluded that the technology is as safe if not safer than any other technology we might’ve used historically for generating new crops.

“I think we should look at what the technology offers us and if there’s real value. The value I would suggest is looking at effectively GM organic so that we’re using the technology so that we can reduce the amount of chemicals and pesticides and herbicides that we use, reducing the impact on the environment, reducing things like the tillage of our soil. There’s lots of benefits. I think we should examine where the benefits lie and how that should be used.”

Prof Glover was the inaugural chief Scientific Officer for Scotland between 2006-11. She went on to become chief scientific adviser to the president of the European Commission.

The only crop currently grown in the EU is insect resistent maize in Spain. But GM is present in the human food chain in Europe, as the technology constituted about 90 per cent of animal feeds imported from the US. Imported foodstuffs on the supermarket shelves from places like the US are also likely to contain GM crops.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said ministers “very much value” the scientific community. But he added three-quarters of Scottish seed potato exports must be GM-free and ministers were “right to safeguard the reputation” of the food and drink industry.